Digitisation of Japanese Maps at The John Rylands Library

Digitised material is progressively being added to the Library’s imaging online collection – LUNA – It has grown to include another small but very important part of our Special Collections.

A number of Japanese Maps have recently been digitised with the support of the Library’s Digitisation Steering Group. The Japanese Collection, assembled by the 25th Earl of Crawford in the 1860s and 1870s and purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1901, is not large by international standards, but it contains a number of manuscripts and printed books of great interest and rarity. Amongst them are a number of 18th and 19th century maps together with topographical or geographical books and manuscripts.

Initiated by Erica Baffelli – Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Manchester – The aim behind this project was to select and digitise a number of maps and associated books and manuscripts of the Library’s Japanese Collection in order to preserve and make them available for teaching, research and study purposes. At this stage, 18 maps, predominantly published in Japan during the Tokugawa or Edo period, were selected; most of them represent the whole or parts of Japan. Because of their format and fragility comparing manuscripts side-by-side is very difficult; digitisation can be an ideal approach in making possible the close comparison and contextualisation of a range of maps with related material.

The majority of the maps are folded in original covers, and documents that have been kept folded for more than a century often need more careful handling in order to unfold them; placing the maps onto the photography stand for a few minutes allows the material to be relaxed in order to be flattened; weights placed on top of the surface facilitated the desired result.

In total, 49 images were produced including front and back covers and in some cases the back of the map (verso). Because of their extensive length, 2 maps of the world in scroll format (Japanese 118 and Japanese 118a) were photographed in parts and a single, amalgamated and immaculately stitched image for both items has been created by our skilled photographer Gwen Riley Jones.


Japanese 118 – Shinsei yochi zenzu – Map of the world divided into two hemispheres.


Japanese 118a – Shinsei yochi zenzu – Map of the world divided into two hemispheres.

Through digitisation, gradually more maps will become widely available and can be accessed through other sites. Our Collection will complement other digital collections by allowing related materials to be compared and contrasted; an example is the distinguished Japanese Historical Map Collection at the University of California housed on the Berkeley campus in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. A large portion of this great collection has been digitized by David Rumsey and Cartography Associates and is available for viewing online at the Japanese Historical Maps website.


Japanese 48: Kaihō Kyō Ezu – Map of Kyoto – Image No.: jrl15070831


Kaihō Kyō Ezu – Map of Kyoto – Image No.: jhm000232a

Cartographically, The John Rylands copy, hand-coloured with numbers annotated in red ink (Image No.: JRL15070831) is similar to the one from the East Asian Library (Image No.: jhm000232a).

The digital records of the Japanese Maps are now uploaded into The University of Manchester Library, Image Collections – LUNA as part of the Maps Collection. They are freely available for research, teaching and learning purposes, as well as to those with an interest in cartography. Both metadata and images can be downloaded or printed directly from LUNA.

                                                                       Ourania Karapasia


4 thoughts on “Digitisation of Japanese Maps at The John Rylands Library

  1. […] Source: Digitisation of Japanese Maps at the John Rylands Library […]

  2. Reblogged this on randomactsofcartography and commented:
    More from the excellent Rylands map collection.

  3. […] our blog entry in October 2015, Digitisation of Japanese Maps at the John Rylands Library, we are pleased to announce the completion of phase three of the Japanese Maps digitisation […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: